There are certain things we should all be doing to benefit our health and wellness, and there a number of health exams that every person should get, specifically in their 20s and 30s. Unfortunately, something that is often overlooked is the importance of staying on top of our regular health exams. Knowing what health exams you should get and how often can sometimes seem both confusing and overwhelming. It’s likely you’re completely devoted to scheduling in time for work meetings, or weekend getaways, but completely overlook the importance of getting to the doctor — especially when you’re feeling good. But, while it’s really simple for younger people to skip health-related appointments when we don’t feel ill, it's incredibly important.
Simply put, there are some milestone medical exams we should all be aware of, and that we should be forcing ourselves to keep up with. Now is the time to begin penciling them in. Many of these exams can alert us to issues that — when probably treated — can literally save our lives down the road.
Here are seven exams you should absolutely be scheduling for yourself. Keep in mind, too, that dependent on your family history your doctor might recommend additional or more frequent tests (for example, if colon cancer runs in your family, it might be recommended that you have a colonoscopy). But, here are ones that should absolutely be on your radar, even if you deem yourself the healthiest of healthy women.
1. Physical Exam
When I think of a physical, I imagine it as something I was forced to do before starting a school sport as a teen. At the time, I thought them to be pointless. The truth is that physical exams are actually very important, and even people 30 and younger should be getting one regularly. According to U.S. News & World Report piece by Dr. Bryan Arling, this means scheduling a physical twice in your 20s and three times in your 30s (and so on).
Other than the standards of height, weight, and blood pressure, at the physical, you can also have your doctor assure you’re up-to-date on your immunizations. For instance, as an adult woman up to age 26, if you so choose, you should have the HPV vaccination that helps, in part, fight against high-risk HPV that causes nearly 100-percent of cervical cancers, according to Women's Health. The doctor will also check your blood pressure. Knowing this number can be super helpful to your heart, brain, kidneys, and more.
2. Cholesterol Profile
It is recommended that women in their 20s and 30s have their blood drawn for a cholesterol test at least once every four to six years, according to WebMD. As with anything else, it should be checked more often depending on your family history and prior health records. Knowing your cholesterol number is so important. For instance, if your cholesterol is high it poses a major risk for coronary heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association. To keep your heart at its utmost health, be sure to commit to this test.
3. Breast Exam
We all know we should be regularly visiting our gynecologist, and here’s why: These visits, like many other health exams, help both you and your doctor to understand your body, and allows your doctor to find any problems easily so that they can be treated. Part of your gyno visit should include an annual clinical breast exam, which will help identify any unusual lumps.
According to BreastCancer.org, in the US one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer Research, cases that are caught early lead to better prognosis, so getting checked frequently can literally help save your life. In addition to getting a clinical breast exam, you should give yourself routine self-exams once a month. This involves checking your breasts for irregular lumps or bumps, according to Women's Health. If anything seems strange, schedule an appointment ASAP.
4. Pelvic Exam And Pap Smear
While at the gyno, you should also be requesting a pelvic exam and a pap smear. The pelvic exam involved the doctor checking your uterus and ovaries for fibroids, cysts, or any pain or swelling indicating infection. Pap screening should begin by age 21, and women should have a Pap smear once every three years, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) standards for screenings. This test will help identify signs of cervical cancer. If you’re sexually active, it is also a good idea to have your gyno run an STD test while you’re there as well.
5. Skin Screening
I was so, so horrible to my skin in my late teens and early 20s. I never used sunscreen and visited my local tanning salon multiple times a week. So when I started working at a dermatologist's office one summer during college, I was immediately grilled by everyone who worked there. It was only then that I realized how serious skin conditions can be, and finally committed to not only being kind to my skin, but also sticking to my regular skin screening appointments.
In the U.S., roughly 3.3 million people are treated for nonmelanoma skin cancer each year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. In your 20s and 30s, regular visits to your dermatologist are recommended as a means of catching anything before it becomes too large a health issue. This means making an appointment for a skin screening once a year. You should also be monitoring your skin on your own. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends you check your body once a month for anything you deem strange or new. If you notice any changing moles or suspicious marks, you should make an appointment right away. As we all know, it’s far better to be safe than sorry.
6. Eye Exam
For those who don’t have trouble with their vision — either near or far — it’s easy to skip out on the eye doctor. But, according MedlinePlus, it is recommended that we all have an eye exam once every two to four years before the age of 40, and of course more regularly if you have vision problems. After 40, we should be seeing the eye doctor even more regularly. According to Glaucoma.org, “Early detection, through regular and complete eye exams, is the key to protecting your vision from damage caused by glaucoma.”
7. Dental Exam
Everyone — even those with pristine dental health — should visit their dentist at least annually for an exam and cleaning. According to experts from the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, once is year is said to be enough for those who have low risk of cavities or gum disease. For others, they may consider going twice a year for check-ups. Those in the “high risk” group are recommended to visit their dentist every three to four months. According to the Columbia experts, this includes smokers, pregnant women, diabetics, those with gum disease, those with a weak immune response to bacterial infection, and those who are prone to cavities or plaque build up.
It may seem impossible to keep up with all of these appointments, but remember that your health truly depends on it. Make these exams part of your calendar, and you’ll be sincerely thanking yourself for years to come.
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